Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enters into law – Friday 22nd January 2021 – Invitation to a Thanksgiving Service

The Treaty was negotiated at the United Nations in 2017 and supported by 122 states. It will enter into legal force on 22 January 2021, banning nuclear weapons under international law.

THANKSGIVING SERVICE

On Friday 22 January at 11.30am the Network of Christian Peace Organisations will be gathering to celebrate the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons with a short Thanksgiving Service hosted by the Network of Christian Peace Organisations. It will take place on Zoom and they hope to finish with bells ringing in celebration of nuclear weapons being banned. Click here for the Zoom link.

More details from Christian CND

Statement on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales

Peace Sunday 2021 National Liturgy – Saturday 16th January, 6pm on Zoom

Join Pax Christi to reflect on Pope Francis’ World Peace Day Message ‘A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace’.

About this Event

Together we will gather on zoom to pray, share and reflect on Pope Francis’ message ‘A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace’. We will explore what this message calls us to do as peacemakers and how we respond to the call to live nonviolently.

Register with Eventbrite

If you have any questions or problems registering for this event, please contact the office at admin@paxchristi.org.uk

This year has been one of unprecedented and continuing challenges. We are all conscious of the need to restore and rebuild our communities here and around the world, accepting that we need new ways of working and relating to each other.   The Christian message of peace, through reconciliation, justice and nonviolence, can offer hope and direction in these times.  I invite you to seriously consider facilitating a collection for, or making a donation to, the work of Pax Christi at this time as a way to make a practical contribution to continuing the work of peace

Pax Christi National President, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon

Peace Sunday resources can be found here: https://paxchristi.org.uk/peace-sunday-2021/    

Contact: info@paxchristi.org.uk

Free School Meal Parcels ‘Not good enough’

One of many examples of the £30 food parcel contents posted on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RoadsideMum/status/1348646428084760576

Like many others, Caritas Westminster and the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission have been shocked to see the photos of inadequate free school meal parcels being shared on social media over the last couple of days.

Throughout the pandemic increasing numbers of families have faced extremely challenging circumstances, with many losing income and having to support children at home whilst schools have been closed.

Unfortunately, as schools have been forced to close again we are seeing the same problems of the first lockdown repeating themselves, with families struggling to access free school meal vouchers and being provided with low quality food parcels. Already the projects and schools we support have seen an increase in need with more families being referred for emergency support.

Anna Gavurin, Caritas Food Collective Co-ordinator said: “We believe every child deserves to have access to fresh, nutritious food and every family should be able to access food in a dignified manner. At Caritas Westminster we have supported this during the pandemic by running a supermarket voucher scheme that has so far distributed over £170,000 to more than 5000 people. This has enabled families to shop for themselves, with dignity and buy the items their families need most. This scheme has also supported parishes and schools to provide support for those who slip through the gaps and do not qualify for Free School Meals for certain reasons such as having no recourse to public funds. In the last week we have also been able to help schools support families who lost their jobs before Christmas and have not yet been given access to Free School Meal support.”

Anna continued, “These vouchers have provided a life line for many and do give choice to families, however increasing the cash available to struggling families is the most dignified solution. This offers families the ability to manage their budget more flexibly and keep on top of bills and other demands. It also allows them to shop in any retailer without stigma, enabling them to make savings and support the local economy. Direct financial support allows families to plan ahead and make the most efficient choices, rather than relying on food parcels. To call for this Caritas Westminster has joined with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and a coalition of charities to ask the Government to make permanent the £20 uplift in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, and to extend it to people on Employment Support Allowance, Income Support and Job Seekers’ Allowance.”

Colette Joyce, the Co-ordinator of Westminster Justice and Peace said, “We have to ask as a society, who is benefiting from these food parcels – the recipients or the companies with the government contracts? It is not good enough. We have to ensure that when parents are struggling, every child has access to a proper meal of the same quality that you or I would choose for ourselves.”

Caritas Westminster and Westminster Justice and Peace call on the Government to:

  • Ensure families have the option to access supermarket voucher and cash options.
  • Expand Free School Meal provision to ensure children do not miss out because of their parent’s immigration status.
  • Keep the £20 uplift to Universal Credit so families have enough to live on and can manage their own budgets.

If you would like to donate to support the work of Caritas Westminster in providing supermarket vouchers and other emergency support please go to https://rcdow.org.uk/donations/caritas-westminster/

Caritas Westminster

Catholic Bishops Endorse UN Treaty on Nuclear Weapons, ahead of Peace Sunday – 17th January 2020

Source – Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales

On Friday 22 January 2021 the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons comes into force. This is an historic milestone on the path to nuclear disarmament and an opportunity to refocus on genuine peacebuilding rooted in dialogue, justice, respect for human dignity, and care for our planet.

In setting out the “moral and humanitarian imperative” for complete elimination of nuclear weapons, Pope Francis reminded us that “international peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation.” [1]

We urge support for the Treaty and repeat our call for the UK to forsake its nuclear arsenal. The resources spent on manufacturing, maintaining and upgrading these weapons of mass destruction, should be reinvested to alleviate the suffering of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society, for the Common Good of all peoples. [2]

At the same time, we implore the government to strengthen its arms control regulations, tackling the manufacture and sale of other weaponry, which continues to destroy so many lives throughout the world.

Above all we pray: “Lord, Father of our human family, you created all human beings equal in dignity; pour forth into our hearts a fraternal spirit.

Move us to create healthier societies and a more dignified world, a world without hunger, poverty, violence and war.” [3]

+Declan Lang
Bishop of Clifton
Chair, International Affairs Department, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

+William Nolan
Bishop of Galloway
Commission for Justice and Peace, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland

+William Kenney
Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham

[1] Message to the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination
(23 March 2017)

[2] Statement on nuclear weapons
(4 August 2020)

[3] Fratelli Tutti

Westminster Justice & Peace E-Bulletin January 2021

Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, Chair of Westminster Justice & Peace Commission

            Welcome to the first Justice & Peace E-bulletin of 2021. 

We begin a new year with so many uncertainties and challenges.  We are right in the midst of this dreadful pandemic which is changing so much of the way we live our lives.  Our parish communities will each have their own stories of those who are suffering in different ways: physical illness, bereavements, loneliness, depression, lost jobs, increased poverty and destitution, and the inability to come together in person as a parish community. It’s a tough time and is likely to continue to be so for months ahead.   

And yet there are so many heroic stories too of living out faith in sacrificial service of those who are victims of the pandemic, often by society forgotten, through the food banks, homeless services, and the different groups serving and advocating for the vast numbers of newly poor here on our streets.  The Gospel of Justice and Peace has certainly been proclaimed throughout these last months in our communities and on our streets.  If we can say there are graces of this dreadful time they are clearly visible in the social action and advocacy work going on around the Diocese.  Here Justice and Peace Westminster has worked closely alongside Caritas Westminster marrying advocacy and action and so bringing to life the Church’s social conscience and mission. 

            While so much of the work of Justice & Peace has rightly focussed on these immediate and pressing needs the Commission, sub-committees and parish groups have addressed other issues of ongoing importance.  In the wake of Black Lives Matter we have seen great motivation in addressing issues of racial justice in parishes, in the Church and society.  Racial Justice Sunday on January 31st will be an opportunity to focus on this important issue.  Similarly, Peace Sunday, celebrated on January 17th, will challenge us to think outside of our domestic borders to be in solidarity with those overseas ravaged by war and conflict and to examine our own complicity there through passive support of weapons manufacture and investment.   

In a similar vein Pope Francis’ call to care for creation will continue to be echoed through how we promote environmentally friendly projects and policies and raise awareness of green issues, all leading up to a diocesan group going to COP 26 in November.

As we begin this new year of such uncertainty and challenge may we make a new commitment to allow the Gospel of justice and peace to take root in all our communities and respond to the Holy Father’s call on New Year’s Day when he encouraged all of us to work for a peace “sustained with patient and respectful dialogue” and “constructed with an open collaboration with truth and justice,” so 2021 may be “a year of peace, a year of hope.” It is up to everyone, Pope Francis says to take “by the hand those who need a comforting word, a tender gesture,” he said, and if “we begin to be in peace with ourselves,” it will spread to “those who are near us.”  

May the God of Peace be with you and your loved ones at the start of this new year.

Fr Dominic
Chair, Justice & Peace Commission, Diocese of Westminster 

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Welcome to Raymond Friel, new CEO of Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN)

Raymond Friel

Source: Independent Catholic News

Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) has announced the appointment of Raymond Friel as Chief Executive Officer to succeed Dr Phil McCarthy who will retire from the role at the end of March 2021 after over five years.

Raymond Friel was born in Scotland and after graduating from Glasgow University, has spent most of his professional life in England. He started teaching in London in 1990 and was a head teacher in Catholic secondary schools from 2002 until 2016. He was then General Secretary of the Catholic Independent Schools Conference for two years before becoming CEO of Plymouth CAST, a multi-academy trust of 36 Catholic schools until 2020. He is a published poet and the author of several influential books on Catholic education, including How to Survive in Leadership in a Catholic School.

Bishop Terry Drainey, the Chair of CSAN said: “The Board of Trustees is delighted to announce the appointment of Raymond Friel as CEO. He has a wealth of leadership experience and expertise, a wide knowledge of the Church and a deep commitment to the Gospels. I look forward to working with him to further Catholic social action across England & Wales.”

Sr Lynda Dearlove, Vice Chair of CSAN said: “CSAN has a crucial role animating and coordinating Catholic social action. The Board looks forward to working with Raymond to realizing Pope Francis’ vision of a ‘poor Church for the poor’.”

Raymond Friel said: “I am delighted to be taking up this new challenge. I look forward to contributing to this important part of our Church’s mission, which will be even more vital as our country recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Catholic Social Action Network Website

Homily by Bishop Nicholas Hudson for JRS Advent Service on 8th December 2020

Homeless Jesus by Timothy Schmalz

Bishop Nicholas Hudson gave this homily at the JRS Advent Service, in Farm Street Church.

Ask any Refugee or Asylum Seeker what he or she likes best about this church, and I’m confident it will be this, the sculpture of the Homeless Jesus. The one who has nowhere to lay his head; not really to lay his head. Yes, he’s found a bench but as everyone knows who’s been homeless when you sleep rough, you sleep with one eye open your head is never truly resting. Jesus used that phrase about himself. If you remember ‘the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’, he said, meaning he would always need to be on the alert, always on the run.

As Jesus was arriving into this world, Luke tells us Mary and Joseph could find nowhere to lay him down. They had to settle on an outhouse where they could only lay his head in straw prepared for animals.

That’s why Saint John Chrysostom tells us as Christians to remember the poor. ‘Do you wish to honour the body of Christ?’ he asks, ‘then do not despise him when he is naked. Do not honour him here in the church building with silks only to neglect him outside when he is suffering from cold and from nakedness, for he who said “This is my body” is the same who said “you saw me a hungry man and you did not give me to eat”. Of what use is it to load the table of Christ? Feed the hungry and then come and decorate the table you are giving a golden chalice and you do not give a cup of cold water.

These are sobering words and they find an echo in another saintly man whom we’ve been thinking about much in recent years, Archbishop Oscar Romero. The Christmas before he died he spoke these words at Mass ‘If we wish to find the Child Jesus today, we should not expect to find him in beautiful crib figures. We should look for him rather among the malnourished children who went to bed tonight with nothing to eat. We should look for him among the poor newspaper boys who will sleep tonight on doorsteps wrapped in their papers’.

Pope Francis captures the essence of this when he urges us not to forget the words of Saint John of the Cross that ‘As we prepare to leave this life. We will be judged on the basis of love’. As we prepare to leave this life, we will be judged on the basis of love.

I was once in a prayer group where someone asked “How does God answer prayer?” “Through us” replied an older woman. He answers prayer through us and she should know she’d helped found the hospice movement. That was a marvellous movement which transformed the way the sick and dying were cared for in this country. Ever since this pandemic took root people of faith have been asking God to save us, to set us free from this contagion and now their prayer seems to be being answered through the inventors of not just one but several vaccines. We can look at scientists and say through them. He answered our prayers through them.

We call Jesus Emmanuel a name which means God is with us. But how is he with us? Through others. We know it instinctively. That’s why, if you think about it, every film representation of Jesus birth has a good woman from the town who comes to help Mary in her moment of need. I don’t know a single film of the Nativity which doesn’t insert this generous soul into the drama. When I see this saintly woman comforting Mary and tending the newborn baby, I think of words which Pope Francis has been saying ever since he became Pope. That when you reach out to the poor and needy you touch the wounded Body of Christ. When you give welcome to the homeless man or woman who comes knocking at your door you welcome the homeless Christ.

At the end of time we shall see Jesus risen from this bench now in all his glory accompanied by angels and we shall hear him say to us “Come you blessed of my father because I was hungry and you gave me to eat, thirsty and you gave me drink, sick and in prison and you visited me, a stranger and you made me welcome. Now, let me share with you my home forever.”

Watch a recording of the JRS Advent Service on Youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OLo8uA3Z-s

13th December 2020 – Reflections from Bethlehem 4.30-6.00pm – Justice and Peace Scotland

From Independent Catholic News

Every year we sing ‘O Little Town’ but how much do we really know about life in Bethlehem? As we journey through advent each year our thoughts turn to the place where Jesus was born. But how much do we actually know about Bethlehem today? A world apart from carols and Christmas cards is a living, breathing city in the West Bank whose people face unique challenges in a place like no other.

Justice and Peace Scotland invite you to join them on Sunday to hear voices from the Christian community in Bethlehem sharing their experiences and hopes for their city.

Speakers include:

Vera Baboun – A teacher and academic Vera Baboun became the first woman to be elected Mayor of Bethlehem leading a party list of both Christian and Muslim candidates from 2012-2017. Facing the challenges created by the security barrier, mass unemployment, and an exodus of the Christian population during her time in office she sought to improve infrastructure, create opportunities for young people to work, and to promote the cultural, historical and spiritual heritage of Bethlehem.

Laila Asfoura – A businesswoman and the Director of Laila Tours & Travels, Laila Asfoura is a dynamic member of the Christian community in Bethlehem, involved with establishing St Martha’s House, a centre for elderly women, many widowed and isolated from family who have moved abroad, to meet, spend time together and share their experience.

The event takes place on Sunday 13th December from 4.30pm – 6pm

Register to join here: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/reflection-on-bethlehem-tickets-129274542637

Wednesday 9th December 2020, 1pm – Vatican Online Webinar for an Ambitious Climate Summit

Image

In occasion of the five years anniversary of the landmark Paris Agreement, adopted in Paris in December 2015 and ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit (12 December), the Vatican Covid-19 Commission (#VaticanCovidCommission)  and its partners  will highlight through this webinar the need to urge governments to raise ambition for tackling the climate emergency, through the points of view of:

  •  H.E. Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson – Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, on how faith and Pope Francis’ messages can help address the climate crisis;
  •  Prof. John Schellnhuber – Founding Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, on what science is telling us today and what that means for world leaders, civil society and businesses;
  •  Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim – Coordinator of AFPAT, on the impact of global warming on communities and the role of youth activism.

The webinar, moderated by Sandrine Dixson-Declève, Co-President:  The Club of Rome, will provide a platform for a high-level exchange on the climate crisis in the context of the efforts to build a just and sustainable recovery. Participants will be able to engage with the speakers through a Q&As session.

Webinar Registration

Vatican Covid19 Commission Website

YouTube streaming arranged here

Report from 5th December 2020: Westminster Social Justice and Peace Forum – Learning from the Pandemic

Source: Ellen Teague – Independent Catholic News

What is the pandemic teaching us about the call to Justice and Peace? That was the question posed by Bishop Nicholas Hudson last Saturday at the start of an online meeting of the Westminster Justice and Peace Forum on the theme ‘Learning from the Pandemic’. Bishop Paul McAleenan was on the zoom too, along with around 60 clergy, religious and laity. It was great to see such a spread of interest across the diocese – Hertfordshire as well as London – and a few joined in from other dioceses – Southwark, Northampton and Brentwood were the ones I spotted. British Sign Language interpretation was provided throughout by Caritas Deaf Service.

Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, based at Farm Street church and the Chair of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, led us through the morning event, helping us “to look back at what we have been learning and look at what we can do to rebuild.”

Anna Gavurin, of the Westminster Caritas Food Collective, was the first speaker. She highlighted that soon after pandemic restrictions came in more than 100 projects sprang up immediately. Catholic parishes and schools were well placed to recognise the hardship in their communities. She reported head teachers driving around with food parcels, supermarket vouchers being distributed by at least 120 parishes and schools, and Church foodbanks seeing a fourfold increase in demand. As well as the humanitarian response, she felt the pandemic shone a light on the causes of food poverty – especially people with no recourse to public funds and no access to, or delays to, benefits. Caritas organised training, helping parishes and schools to see what they could do in their local area. The issue of Justice came more and more to the fore in discussions, “challenging us to think why this is happening.” She learnt the extent to which the Church is a vibrant network, ready to respond in a crisis. Also, that the Church has a voice to influence and is using it. Into the future, Caritas Westminster has developed its Road to Resilience programme: www.caritasfoodcollective.org.uk/road-to-resilience-63.php.

Dr Pat Jones, of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University, talked about one of her brothers teaching in a deprived area of the North-West, and his experience of lessons being disrupted because of a “toast trolley” moving along the corridor outside to feed hungry children. She felt disturbed by that toast trolley and asked, “what has happened to the social safety net?”. Our social and economic systems are broken, she said, and “the pandemic prompts a radical reset for we must not forget what we have seen and heard and must not settle for the old normality.” She highlighted Pope Francis’ call for structural change, with a new emphasis on ‘Social Peace’ “which is built from below”. Pat deplored rising levels of domestic violence during the pandemic and the reduced number of refuges available for women fleeing partners. It was mentioned that the National Board of Catholic Women has responded with its recent publication, ‘Raising Awareness of Domestic Abuse’ and see the work of the Bishops’ Conference at www.cbcew.org.uk/home/our-work/domestic-abuse/.

Fr Richard Nesbitt, parish priest of Our Lady of Fatima Parish at White City, highlighted the issue of racial justice and reported having his eyes opened by listening to the multicultural community in his parish. His parishioners spoke of the lack of black people in leadership roles in the Church; racial imagery in artwork in Church and in cards in the repository; little diversity of musical styles. It was pointed out to him that even in the Church’s charity work there was the danger of ‘white saviour’ syndrome. “Most shocking of all” he said “was where some black parishioners regularly experience rejection by white parishioners” at the Sign of Peace in the Mass. He quoted from US priest, Fr Bryan N Massingale, that, “Catholic Teaching on race suffers from a lack of passion”. He clarified what he meant by saying, “no one can doubt what the position is on Abortion – a major marker of Catholic identity – but Racism is marked by low institutional commitment, being tepid, lukewarm and half-hearted – and so not seen as a core component of Catholic identity.” Fr Richard reflected, “this has been a journey of conversion for me.”

Marcelle Smith, gave a Catholic Schools perspective from her experience as a teacher in Colchester. She has been horrified by some materials used in classes which reinforce systemic racism. She called for more teachers from ethnic minorities and better Racial literacy teacher training. When asked about her hopes for the year ahead, she said, “Justice”.

At a break in the meeting two short videos were played which had won a Season of Creation 2020 diocesan video competition. One was from St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Neasden and the other from St Vincent’s Primary school in Ealing. In both of them participants saw the planting of seeds, bulbs and saplings. In the second a young child hoped, “that our work inspires other children to look after our ecosystem”. WOW! I didn’t even know that word ‘ecosystem’ when I was at school! See: https://westminsterjp.wordpress.com/season-of-creation-video-competition/

Colette Joyce, the Justice and Peace Coordinator for Westminster, reported that the four London dioceses – Arundel & Brighton, Brentwood, Southwark and Westminster – are planning to work together and with CAFOD next year on Climate Justice in preparation for COP26 in November at Glasgow. A Columban sister suggested that the question should be examined, ‘Is Climate Change racist?’

Feedback from groups suggested that the pandemic has highlighted for them the sheer scale of poverty and inequality in Britain; public budget priorities which would put military spending ahead of aid; Racism in society and in the Church; and a new awareness of who keyworkers are and their contribution to the common good of society. “So many people are close to the edge and our society’s fragility has been revealed” said one participant. There was a commitment to greater solidarity with vulnerable people and communities and making use of new technology for advocacy work. “How we connect digitally is really important” said another. Very specifically, there was a call to revisit the relationship between the Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ) and the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Perhaps Racial Justice Sunday should be reconnected directly with CARJ.

Liam Allmark, of the Bishops’ Conference summed up the learning from the pandemic. Quoting Pope Francis, he said, “this is a moment to dream big, act differently and a time to heal”. In his thanks, Bishop Paul McAleenan referred to the latest publication from Pope Francis ‘Let Us Dream’ where the three chapters take the titles – SEE, JUDGE, ACT. This process – sometimes called the Pastoral Cycle – is a key process for Justice and Peace work. The final prayer came from Laudato Si’. Exuberant hymns topped and tailed the meeting, led by Mary Pierre-Harvey, the Director of Parish Youth and the Caribbean Choir at St Michael and St Martin Parish, Hounslow. The gathering aimed to provide some direction for the year ahead. It certainly did!

Presentation by Dr Pat Jones
Building Social Peace

Presentation by Fr Richard Nesbitt
Journey of a Parish Racial Justice Group